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Everything You Need to Know About Orthodontic Retainers

Our teeth are a vitally important part of our lives. That means brushing and flossing, regular cleanings and checkups at the dentist, and getting braces or Invisalign as needed are an absolute must. 

Our teeth are a vitally important part of our lives. That means brushing and flossing, regular cleanings and checkups at the dentist, and getting braces or Invisalign as needed are an absolute must. 

For those of us who’ve had to deal with braces or Invisalign treatment, there’s one other thing we have to add to the list: wearing a retainer. Almost ready for yours, or just want to learn more about the entire process? Here are the basics you should know.

What is a Retainer?

If you’ve heard the word before but aren’t entirely sure exactly what it is, you’re not alone. To clear things up, a retainer is a custom-made dental device typically made from plastic or wires that hold realigned teeth in position, so they won’t revert to where they were before treatment. This means that all who have had certain surgeries, braces, or Invisalign will also have to wear a retainer. After all, you don’t want all of that time and money to go to waste! 

In many ways, retainers are very similar to Invisalign trays. The differences, however, lie in the details. Retainers have a slightly differing design featuring a thicker plastic and higher rigidity. While these aren’t as comfortable as Invisalign trays, always be sure to wear your retainer as prescribed. Your doctor really does know best!

Main Types of Retainers

Dunegan Cole Orthodontics offers several different retainer options to choose from. Both serve the same purpose, but each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick breakdown of each one to get you better acquainted:

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are the most common form of retainer. These molded trays can be popped in and out for meal times and are expected to be worn around 12-ish hours a day or at least overnight to keep teeth nice and straight. Within these are two distinct kinds:

  1. Vacuum form retainer – A VFR uses a regular horseshoe shape that fits snugly over your teeth. These days, they’re almost always clear and are much more aesthetically pleasing since they’re mostly invisible. They’re also usually comfier and less bulky. On the downside, though, they do tend to wear out quicker than other forms of retainers, particularly for compulsive teeth grinders. 
  2. Hawley retainer – Unlike a VFR, a Hawley retainer forms to the roof/floor of your mouth and attached with a wire that slips over the front of your teeth. This allows for greater adjustment and durability. However, they’re far less attractive and make talking and swallowing more difficult than their counterparts. 

Permanent Retainers

The most common type of permanent retainer is a fixed lingual retainer, a wire semi-permanently fixed to the back of your teeth. These are only removed by your dentist and are usually primarily recommended for those with especially complex teeth problems like excessive rotation, crowding, or gaps. 

These dental devices are nice as they’re surprisingly comfortable, and you don’t have to think about taking them in and out. But they’re also tricky to clean, and breakage can require immediate orthodontic attention. 

How Often Should You Wear Them?

As you might anticipate, there is no one answer to this question. How often you wear your retainer will be entirely up to the discretion of your orthodontist, and their decision will be influenced by a number of factors, including your age, teeth condition, overall dental health, your braces/Invisalign experience, and more. Some will wear it nightly for a year, some for several, and some for the foreseeable future. It all depends on how your teeth adapt to treatment. 
If you’d like to learn more about retainers or are ready to get started with your smile journey, book your complimentary consultation with our board-certified orthodontists today!

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